Critical Theories and Literary Criticism Love, Desire and the Other General Introduction 2011 Spring
Outline • One Examples: “Love Story” • General Questions • What is Romantic Love and what’s wrong with it? • What are Modern and Postmodern Concepts of Love? • About the Course • Three Traditional Love Poems & one Contemporary Song
Love Story By Andy Williams Where do I begin to tell a story of how great a love can be the sweet love story that is older than the sea the simple truth about the love she brings to me Where do I start With her first hello she gave a meaning to this empty world of mine There'd never be another love another time She came into my life and made the living fineshe fills my heart
Love Story By Andy Williams (2) she fills my heart with very special thingswith angel songs,with wild imaginingsShe fills my soul with so much lovethat anywhere I go I'm never lonely.With her along who could be lonelyI reach for her handit's always there
Love Story By Andy Williams (3) How long does it last Can love be measured by the hours in a day I have no answers now but this much I can say: I know I'll need her till the stars all burn away and she'll be there (underline added)
Is this a poem? What kind of Love is described here? • It depends. Some poetic elements: repetition, rimes. But what is poetry? • A fine combination of sound (rime, rhythm, meter, etc.) and sense (figurative language, irony, personification, etc.)? No. • Shocking us into a new awareness? No. • Instead, it is a straightforward celebration of a “romantic” love which falls in the tradition of “Romantic love.”
Kinds? Examples? • Star-crossed lovers: Romeo and Juliet, 梁山伯與祝英台 (love thwarted by external forces) • Illicit love (adultery): Madame Bovary • Eternal love: The Bridges of Madison County • Rousseau? Idealization of the lover
Examples? Jean-Jacques Rousseau • Married to Therese Levasseur, whom, greatly inferior to him but “dearest” to him, he does not desire or love at all. (Hunt 304) • “chronically inconsistent” • Sees as his true love Sophie d’Houdetot -- "I kissed her. What a kiss! But that was all"- • "The light of every virtue adorned in my eyes the idol of my heart; to have soiled that divine image would have been to destroy it … I told her a hundred times that, if it had been in my power to gratify myself, if she had put herself at my mercy of her own free will, except in a few short moments of madness I should have refused to purchase my own happiness at such a price. I loved her too well to wish to possess her“ (qtd Hunt 305)"
What is Romantic Love? Is it a Natural or Universal Sentiment? “Romantic passion is a complex multifaceted emotional phenomenon that is a byproduct of an interplay of biology, self, and society. • The desire for union or merger; • Idealization of the beloved; • Exclusivity; (e.g. always, never) • Emotional dependency on or powerful empathy and concern for the beloved. • Intrusive thinking about the love object (Cf. Jankowiak 4-5)
Is it natural? • “natural”– in the biological or evolutionary senses; • “cultural”– human invented ritual. • e.g. Kiss • Natural -- for mammals; started with feeding; memorable for procreation purposes • Cultural -- Many kinds, part of many rituals
What’s wrong with it? Nothing wrong as an emotional or biological need, but— • Romantic love is not “Love.” • It is apparently a powerful feeling that seems to be unique and eternal, but actually --
Romantic love is A cultural product with a lot of conventions (some plot elements or ways of rationalization); • e.g. to ignore or overcome its transience: • carpe diem (seize the day); liebestod (love and death) • Part of the tradition of idealized love (e.g. courtly love, Platonic love, neo-Platonic love, Romantic love)*. Idealization can lead to … See distinction here.
Romantic love’s Idealization can • involveobjectification of women whose actual feelings are ignored and subjectivities denied; • Hide realities of inequality, commodification or the narcissistic nature of our desire. • Turn to fear, hatred or self-sacrifice because it is so powerful but probably one-sided. (e.g. femme fatal) • Not innocent: Be used to support rigid laws of gender oppression (e.g. chastity). The “canonical” love poems are not exempt from some “ideology” of love.
Romantic Love in the Romantic/Victorian Period. Passionately in love + strong sexual inhibition Romantics: • Being demonstratively sentimental, melancholic, tempestuous or tearful. • Goethe and Beethoven– frequently in love; • Women: angels in the house (weak, fearful, anxious to lean on and be dominated by a strong man.) Victorian society – pinnacle of Romantic love, from which S. Freud’s theory arises. CORSETS AND CRINOLINE (硬襯布襯裙 )
Women in the Victorian Age • Hysteric objects for psychoanalytic studies • Pre-Raphaelite women in paintings portrait of Augustine: Ecstasy Beata Beatrix 1864-70
Women in the Victorian Age • “Mrs. B” her imagined lovemaking consists of lying in each other’s arms all night and kissing. • “She was somewhat shocked and disgusted by the experience of the wedding night. It seemed to her that her husband approached her with the violence of an animal. . . Coitus, though incomplete, took place some seven times on that first night . . . For two months subsequently there was great pain during intercourse…She eventually discovered that her husband’s abstinence from marital intercourse was due to infidelity.” (Havelock Ellis qtd in Hunt 338)
Another Example “Bright Star” Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art—Not in lone splendour hung aloft the nightAnd watching, with eternal lids apart,Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,The moving waters at their priestlike taskOf pure ablution round earth's human shores,Or gazing on the new soft-fallen maskOf snow upon the mountains and the moorsNo—yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,And so live ever—or else swoon to death.
“Bright Star” In Context (1) • The poem was written by Keats in 1819 and revised it in 1820, perhaps on the (final) voyage to Italy (a common treatment for tuberculosis, a trip to Italy). • Keats was aware that he was dying. Some critics have theorized that this poem was addressed to his fiance, Fanny Brawne, and connect the poem to his May 3, 1818 letter to her.
Ode on Melancholy (1819) She [Melancholy] dwells with Beauty—Beauty that must die; And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh, Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips
The Film Bright Star Bright star 01:12, 1:52 La Belle Dame Sans Merci 01:22 01:40:22,216 --Let's pretend I will return in spring.
Love in the Modern Age? Edward Munch, Eye in Eye, 1894 contrasts sharply with conventional "love-at-first-sight" images popular in the 19th-century (p. 55) Ah, love, let us be true To one another! for the world, which seems To lie before us like a land of dreams, So various, so beautiful, so new, Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light, Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain. Matthew Arnold (1822–1888) from "Dover Beach"
Love in the Modern Age? • The Great Gatsby • Sons and Lovers, Women in Love • “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”
Today? • In English language: “love”–“going out with someone,”“seeing someone”“involved,”“in a relationship.” • After two sexual revolutions (1920’s, 1960’s) • Hollywood films of Romantic love • In Taiwan: 《人間四月天》(許我一個未來吧 )﹐《藍色大門》
“Postmodern Love”: Non-Love or Liquid Love • “I argue that …: affairs are replacing relationships. Affairs…enjoyment of ephemeral pleasure, speed and a lack of depth.” “Polish philosopher Zygmunt Bauman calls this non-love 'liquid love'; a kind of bonding we have with others that is a result of intensified individualisation ”(133Wong) • Anti-romance film (136 Wong)
Postmoder Love (3) • Postmodern de-doxification, challenge of language (différance), truth, reality, identity or any form of totality. ambivalence Love is “at once endlessly pursued and ceaselessly suspected” (Belsey 74) Barthes: “Every other night, on TV…someone says: I love you’ (qtd Belsey 74)
. Moulin Rouge • Pastiche reconstruction of a part romantic love –based on a historical figure Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (a Bohemian artist of the Moulin Rouge ) • "At the Moulin Rouge" (source) • The Elephant House (YouTube)
The Elephant House Medley • Love Is Like Oxygen - Sweet • * Love Is A Many Splendored Thing - Frank Sinatra • Up Where We Belong - Buffy Sainte-Marie, Will Jennings and Jack Nitzsche for An Officer and a Gentleman (later a hit for Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes) • * All You Need Is Love - The Beatles • Lover's Game - Chris Isaak • I Was Made for Lovin' You - KISS • Just One Night - Eric Clapton • * Pride (In The Name Of Love) - U2 • Don't Leave Me this Way - Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes (later Thelma Houston, The Communards, among others) • * Silly Love Songs - Paul McCartney and Wings • (Repeated) Up Where We Belong - Buffy Sainte-Marie, Will Jennings and Jack Nitzsche for An Officer and a Gentleman (later a hit for Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes) • Heroes- David Bowie (and later by The Wallflowers) • * I Will Always Love You - Dolly Parton (and later by Whitney Houston) • * Your Song - Elton John
About the Course • Purposes: See syllabus • Topics: Love and • Sexuality, Desire and Creativity • Other: Class and Race • Community
New Critical Readings and Beyond • New Criticism: close reading; practical criticism; the “Text and Text Only” approach. Form and content united into an “organic whole.” • Beyond: • Discussing the social context(s) it fails to see. • Challenging its underlying beliefs liberal humanism.
Selected Love Poems • Shakespeare: Sonnet 130“My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun” • Courting sonnet in Romeo and Juliet (1591?) • John Donne “To his Mistress: Going to Bed” • Leonard Cohen “I’m Your Man”
Sonnet 130 • The poem • Thesis: Instead of seeing his lover as a beautiful goddess and in absolute or unrealistic terms, the speaker describe his mistress and define his lover in relative terms in order to finally confirm his love. • Two kinds of comparison: • Worse (comparative “more)– e.g. less red, worse than perfume, less pleasing than music yet he loves it; • Unlike ( More real) e.g. eyes, breasts, hair, walk. • As rare but the “truest” -- his “love” and his “language.”
Sonnet 130 -- Context • Seen as a sequence: Sonnet 127 to 152 • bitter and wry reflections on the poet’s sexual entanglement with a woman—who is, in turn, entangled with the youth at the expense of Shakespeare’s relations with both of them.” • Match the sardonic, misogynistic flavour of the early Jacobean court. . . (Jacob 36)
Courting sonnet in Romeo and Juliet • R: If I profane with my unworthiest handThis holy shrine, the gentle sin is this:My lips, two blushing pilgrims ready standTo smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.J:Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much, Which mannerly devotion shows in this; For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch, And palm to palm is holy palmer's kiss. R: Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?J: Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.R&J: O then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do.They pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.J: Saints do not move, though grant for prayers' sake. R&J: Then move not, while my prayer's effect I take... (1.5.104-117)
Courting sonnet in Romeo and Juliet • Thesis: The youngsters court or stay coy with misplaced conceits which combines the spiritual and sexual love in the ‘courtly love’ tradition. • Juliet’s Hands shrine; Juliet, a saint. • Romeo: lips = pilgrims a palmer (pilgrim) with palms • Witty twist with “let lips do what hands do” What? Pray kiss = prayer’s effect
Courting sonnet in Romeo and Juliet-- Context • The play: • Before the sonnet (their first conversation), Romeo, like Byron in "She Walks in Beauty," compares Juliet to light or jewels at night and describes her as the first "true beauty“ he’s seen. • Romeo goes to the ball to find his girlfriend Rosaline, but not Juliet. 2. The film(s) –signs of impetuosity and sexuality
“To his Mistress: Going to Bed” E-Text • Thesis: As the speaker uses witty conceits to ask the lady to strip herself, the ideology of platonic love is challenged but not that of sex as male battle and conquer. • Witty challenge of Platonic love: • Combine the spiritual (e.g. heaven, chime) and sensual, but see the latter as more important or at least the same with the former. • Puns with sexual connotations – labour, standing, “still can stand so nigh”, “hairy diadems,”“flesh upright”
“To his Mistress: Going to Bed” 3. Spiritual and natural images showing the sensual as something “better” and “natural”: -- girdle as heaven’s zone, (body as a far fairer world) -- body as flowery meads; as content of mystic books -- souls unbodied = bodies unclothed -- fools who stop at breast plate or gems (traditional poets?) -- innocence = birth clothes
Body as an object to conquor • Licence my roving hands, and let them go Before, behind, between, above, below. O, my America, my Newfoundland, My kingdom, safest when with one man mann'd, My mine of precious stones, my empery ; How am I blest in thus discovering thee ! To enter in these bonds, is to be free ; Then, where my hand is set, my soul shall be.
John Donne in Context • Unsolved contradictions between Dr. Donne and Jack Donne • Neo-Platonic Love in Renaissance–Its governing ambiguity: “things and persons in the world are to be loved only for the sake of a spiritual beauty that transcends them, and yet the beautiful cannot be appreciated unless we love its manifestations in matter (Singer 195.) • Christianity (from being a Catholic to an Anglican prelate), • Neo-Ovidian (anti-idealistic): “artificial and self-conscious in their defense of sexual pleasures” (Singer 196)
John Donne in Context • e.g. “Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” – unlike “dull-sublunary lovers, separation of the bodies does not hurt the union of ‘true’ lovers’ souls. • “The Extasie,” -- implies that love is a religious experience, • “Flea” sex is a religious experience
I’m Your Man: Close Analysis postmodern parody/collage of traditional and contemporary images of love and masculinity (courtly romance, painting, fairy tales and Valentine )
I’m Your Man -- Context • Canadianism parodied • Signs of the Canadian: The Group of Seven, Riding the Timber, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the maple leaf.
Reference • Romantic Passion: A Universal Experience? Ed. William Jankowiak. Columbia University Press, 1995. • “Loving you by not falling in love: The Postmodern Representation of Love in CHUNGKING EXPRESS AND LOST IN TRANSLATION.” NICHOLAS Y. B. WONG . Screen Education, 2009. • The Natural History of Love. Morton Hunt. New York: Anchor, 1994. • Nature of Love, Vol. 2: Courtly & Romantic. Irving Singer. University of Chicago Press, 1998. • Desire: Love Stories in Western Culture. Catherine Belsey. NY: Blackwell, 1994.